Release Date: Feb 17, 2017
Record label: Kranky
Genre(s): Electronic, Techno, Experimental Ambient, Ambient Techno, Techno-Dub
It's rare to have any vocals appear on of the fog-enshrouded landscapes that Jacob Long devises as Earthen Sea. But earlier this month, Long cleared out his hard drive with A Serious Thing, a nine-track compilation of tracks recorded in the past three years (with all proceeds going to the International Refugee Assistance Project, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the National Lawyers Guild). Less than a minute in, the voice of firebrand gay Harlem intellectual James Baldwin emerges from the mists and speaks of the crucial role of dreamers in their respective societies.
Ambient music is at its best when it has a story to tell. It’s not just background music, it’s conveying an idea, a feeling, or even a sequence of events. Sometimes the story is for the listener to parse out, but other times, we find the story in liner notes, or interviews, or even pictures associated with the tracks (à la Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, Volume II).
Jacob Long has been releasing dark, eerie soundscapes as Earthen Sea since the early 2000s, when he was a member of the Dischord-signed post-hardcore band Black Eyes. His solo project was less active during the late 2000s and early 2010s, when he and fellow Black Eyes alumni Daniel Martin-McCormick were playing tribal post-punk as part of Mi Ami. While that group eventually started making hazy, lo-fi house music similar to Martin-McCormick's work as Ital, releasing the 2012 album Decade on the Los Angeles-based 100% Silk label, Long went in a much more reserved direction when he began incorporating beats into his solo work.
Through his time spent as bassist in early 2000s Dischord Records post-punk band Black Eyes and in early 2010s electro-punk outfit Mi Ami, Jacob Long has always shown a penchant for low-end, tribal rhythms. With his solo project Earthen Sea, Long has perfected his depth-obsessed rhythmic sense, transforming it into techno and noise symphonies that rumble along no matter the BPM. After releasing a handful of limited releases, along with a proper debut in 2015, Long has produced his strongest and most focused LP to date: the reflective An Act of Love.
Certain words turn up often in descriptions of dub techno: deep, aquatic, oceanic. Water seems to be the style's natural reference point, perhaps because of its rippling textures and tendency to distort space. Jacob Long's music as Earthen Sea invites different adjectives. On "About That Time," the second track on his latest album, An Act Of Love, the luminous sonorities and ping-pong delays of the Basic Channel school are avoided in favour of a more inert, sombre sound.